Nestled in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas, Corbett National Park lies mainly in the districts of Nainital, Almora and Pauri Garhwal. The first sanctuary to come under Project Tiger (in 1973), it covers an area of 1,318sq km and includes within it, the Corbett National Park (521sq km), Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary (301sq km) and Kalagarh Reserve Forest (496sq km).

The park is fed by the Ramganga river, the Kosi river and their tributaries. It has two main wildlife zones – to the southeast, close to Ramnagar, is the smaller portion called the Bijrani range (entry from Amdanda gate). The other, much larger range is Dhikala. Entry here is via Dhangarhi gate and is restricted to those who have a permit to stay overnight in any one of the five forest rest houses within this section of the park.

Permits have to be obtained from the tourist office at Ramnagar. Private vehicles are not allowed in the park. You can hire a jeep at the reception. Day visits to Dhikala are not permitted except in conducted tours organised by the tiger reserve.

Park Entry Indians 100 (day) 200 (overnight); Foreigners 450 (day) Rs.900 (overnight) Vehicle Entry Indians 250; Foreigners 500

Park timings 6.00am–10.00am; 1.00pm–5.00pm Elephant safari Indians 300; Foreigners 1,000 (2hrs) Timings 7.00am–9.00am; 3.00–5.00pm Photography Free

THINGS TOSEE AND DO

One of the little-known delights of Corbett is not the park itself, where only the four-wheeled (jeep) or four-legged (elephant) are allowed, but the surrounding area, where visitors can walk freely.

Most people, eager to reach the hotspot of the park miss the many pleasures of these surrounding areas, where frequent wildlife sightings take place. Animals of Corbett criss-cross with ease the hard human edges separating the national park from the rest of the region.

There’s also something magical about walking in the forest – feeling the crunch of twigs beneath your shoes, the scent of wild mint, suddenly noticing that the trees are loosely linked by skeins of spider’s silk, gilded silver by the early sunlight. The forest canopy arches overhead and one instinctively talks in a whisper as if entering a cathedral. And there is no better way to birdwatch, especially if you have an expert guide with you, who can spot a tree-creeper hunting out ants on the bark of a tree, or home in on the distant toc-toc-toc of a wood-pecker at work, or make out the intricate tear-shaped nest of a weaver bird hung like a bauble on a Christmas tree.

Tiger Spotting

Most people come to Corbett for tigers. There’s no guarantee that you’ll see the cat, but the best time of the year for tiger-spotting is April to mid-June, when the forest cover thins out. Pugmarks, of course, are the classic tell-tale pointers of tiger activity.

Jeep safaris offer the best chance to sight a tiger, since you are able to cover a much wider area in the time available. The guides who accompany you on the safari are also well-versed in listening for warning cries of animals and know the habits of each. The downside is that quite often you’ll end up in a minor traffic jam when a tiger is spotted, with many jeeps converging at the same spot.

T. Narayan
An Indian muntjac (barking deer) crossing a trail
An Indian muntjac (barking deer) crossing a trail

In the forest, you can also look out for signs of wild boars, where the undergrowth and soft ground has been churned up by their snuffling snouts, as well as deer-droppings and hoofprints where chital (spotted deer), sambar and tiny muntjac (barking deer) have left their mark.

If you enjoy birdwatching, then mid-December to mid-March is the best time to visit as that is when migratory birds make the park their home. But no matter when you go to Corbett, there will always be deer, elephants, crocodiles, wild boars, otters and mongoose to see.

Elephant Rides

Taking an elephant ride is an experience in itself, even though the chance of seeing a tiger from atop an elephant is much less. There is nothing quite like sitting on a tusker though. You feel much closer to the forest, as your vehicle lumbers along.

Angling

Angling is allowed in the Ramganga river, but only with a special permit that has to be obtained well in advance. Many resorts, such as Jim’s Jungle Resort, will be happy to organise angling trips, including arranging for equipment and permits for an extra charge.

Birdwatching

The park is home to over 580 species of birds and birdwatchers can have a field day spotting some of its more unusual denizens such as the bright-headed cisticola and red avadavat.

The park also encompasses the Kalagarh Dam, where the Ramganga creates a large reservoir – a great attraction for the many species of migratory birds, such as greylag and bar-headed geese, sandpipers and snipe.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

Forest Rest Houses

Sankar Sridhar
Tea on the machan at Jims Jungle Retreat
Tea on the machan at Jims Jungle Retreat

The first choice of die-hard wildlife enthusiasts is one of the forest rest houses located in the park. Book these well in advance. In order to stay at any of the rest houses, make your reservation in Ramnagar and obtain your permit before entering the park.

Tip Reservations for all FRHs can be done online or through the main reception office of Corbett National Park in Ramnagar (Tel: 05947-251489, 253977)

Corbett’s main camp, Dhikala Forest Lodge (Tel: 251489; Tariff: 1,000–2,500, log huts 250 per bed), 40km northwest of Ramnagar, is set in a beautiful location over-looking the Ramganga Reservoir – where one can often watch herds of wild elephant taking their young down to the water for their evening drink – and the forested hills beyond. There is a variety of accommodation here: from bunk beds in the log huts, to more comfortable and private bungalows and cabins. Elephant rides start from the lodge at sunrise and sunset.

Bijrani Forest Rest House (Tel: 251489, 253977; Tariff: 1,250–2,000), with only six rooms, is much smaller but conveniently located, just 9km from Ramnagar. There is a small canteen, as well as a souvenir shop, where you can buy books. Next to the Forest Rest House is a viewing platform – deer often come close while grazing. Elephant rides are also available.

Sarapduli Forest Rest House (Tel: 251489; Tariff: 2,000) is further inside the park, on the road from Dhangarhi Gate towards Dhikala. You will need your own vehicle to stay here, and will also have to make arrangements for food and refreshments. Tourists should refrain from littering.

Private Hotels and Resorts

There is also a wide choice of hotels, guesthouses and resorts lining the road north of Ramnagar along the park’s eastern edge and around the periphery of the park. Corbett Riverside Resort (Delhi Tel: 011-29551191/ 6688, Cell: 09811109596; Tariff: 13,000–31,000 for 3D/ 2N), overlooking the Kosi river, has a restaurant. It arranges jungle safaris, rafting in the Kosi in the monsoon and angling. Mapple Leisure Resort (Tel: 281330, Cell: 09818596333; Tariff: 6,500–9,000), in Sawaldey, village has lovely rooms, a swimming pool, gym and restaurant.

Set up by conservationists, Jim’s Jungle Retreat (Delhi Tel: 011-43516376, Cell: 09711789828; Tariff: 39,000–50,000 for 3D/ 2N, with meals and one safari) is beautifully designed, yet homely. They have a swimming pool and offer internet access. They also arrange angling trips. Infinity Resorts (Delhi Tel: 0124-4655800, Cell: 09650193664; Tariff: 9,000, with meals) is located on the banks of River Kosi. They have a swimming pool, games hall, library and a jogging track. If you are coming with your kids, there is a children’s park to keep them engaged. The Riverview Retreat (Delhi Tel: 011-46520000; Tariff: 7,000–37,000) has a restaurant and bar.

GETTING THERE

State Uttarakhand

Location Corbett National Park is located in Ramganga valley, near the Himalayan foothills

Distance 263km NE of Delhi

Route from Delhi NH24 to Moradabad via Hapur and Gajraula; SH to Kashipur; NH121 to Dhangarhi Gate of Corbett National Park via Ramnagar and Garjia Gate

Rail Nearest railhead: Ramnagar Sta­tion (19km/ 30mins)

Road After Moradabad, turn left on the Kashipur Road. Cross River Dehla and follow the road that skirts the reserve and leads to the Amdanda, Garjia and Dhangarhi gates

Bus There are buses at regular intervals for Ramnagar from ISBT Anand Vihar

FAST FACTS

When to go The best time to visit is between mid-November and March. December to February can be very cold – temperatures can go down to 5oC. During the night, a cold wind (lo­cally called dadu) blows here

Tip The park closes from mid-June to mid-November

Wildlife/ Forest Dept offices

The Director

Corbett Tiger Reserve

Ramnagar, Dist Nainital

Tel: 05947-253977

Park Reception

Tel: 251489; Fax: 251012, 251376

W corbettonline.uk.gov.in

STD code 05947